Ezekiel – Man of Vision, Son of Man

If he were alive today, he would likely be called an eccentric genius. He was a Bible student and a wise priest—sought out for advice even by those who would be his enemies. He was a memorable mime, and only a talented artist could recall and write down the visions he saw in the detail he experienced. He was a student of world politics, of his own day and of the next 2500 years. He was a fastidious architect who recorded probably the greatest building specifications ever written. For all his great talents, he was for the most part content to simply record faithfully what God told him and showed him. He was even struck dumb for seven years so everyone would know that what they heard from him was the Word of God, not the word of Ezekiel. In every way, as his name means, he was strengthened of God.

When Ezekiel singled out 31 year old Daniel as one of the three most righteous men in Israel’s history, he wasn’t talking about a stranger. They grew up together. Both young men were born in about the same year, both were captured in their youth by a cruel and ruthless foreign king and both were torn from their homes in Jerusalem, taken to Babylon, never to return – a priest without a temple and a prince without a court. Yet between them they wrote arguably the most memorable of all Old Testament prophecies, and unarguably they have educated, excited and inspired men and women of faith for over 2500 years since.

Ezekiel was born in Jerusalem around 622BC, the year of Josiah’s Great Passover. He was the son of a priest named Buzi, and that is all we know of his family background. As a child born into the priesthood, his early biblical education was very thorough. He had the good fortune to be born into a time of great religious fervour in Jerusalem. Five years earlier the great prophet Jeremiah, also a priest, from Anathoth just north of Jerusalem, had been called to service. The two men between them wrote over 150 pages of inspired prophecy, over half of Old Testament prophecy. Both warned Judah of its terrible fate if their godless ways continued, which they did. But though Jeremiah had wonderful things to say about a future return, to Ezekiel belonged the honour of writing the great prophecies of the restoration, culminating in a glorious description of the temple that will be the centre of the future kingdom of God on earth.

Ezekiel’s early years were lived under the reign of King Josiah, a great reformer who tried to turn his people back to the God they had forgotten. But they had ignored Yahweh for too long and godlessness was now so tightly woven into their society that only a few responded inwardly to all that Josiah was trying to accomplish. The rest put on a show for their king, but that’s all it was. As Ezekiel grew, he came to know the ways of the king and of the religion he loved. The Bible had been rediscovered in the year of his birth and the would-be priest learned eagerly from the all but forgotten Book of the Law. He saw the temple refurbished and the priesthood reinvigorated.

By the time he reached 13 years of age, ready to take the first tentative steps into adulthood, it must have seemed to Ezekiel that Judah was poised for a great spiritual renaissance. But the complete opposite happened. All his childhood expectations, together with his greatest hero, died in the valley of Megiddo at the point of an Egyptian arrow. Josiah was dead and with him collapsed all the dreams of this teenage boy. Ezekiel’s life changed that day and it would never be the same again. The kingdom of Judah, as an independent entity, was finished. The vassal kings appointed from then on were all godless, even though direct descendants of Josiah. His great spiritual reforms vanished almost instantly; replaced by spiritual anarchy and political intrigue, with God being ignored. Some of the priests attempted to educate the people, but there was to be no turning back this time. Nebuchadnezzar, the terrifying king of Babylon, arrived in Jerusalem when Ezekiel was 18 and his great friend, Daniel, together with many other of his young peers in the ecclesia, were taken away in chains to Babylon.

Seven years later, Nebuchadnezzar returned and this time Ezekiel was taken prisoner and dragged off to a faraway land, never to return. At 25 years of age, he had lost almost everything. Almost. He still had his faith in God, which was now being refined through the hottest of trials. He also still had his childhood friends, now reunited as captives in Babylon.

Ezekiel faced up to his new circumstances with great courage and faith. He barely missed a spiritual beat in all that happened to him. At the age of 25, the happiest years of his life were behind him, yet because of his faith, the best years were still ahead. He faced the future with three important companions: his God, whom he loved and who loved him; his beloved wife, so dear to him she literally caused his eyes to sparkle; and his friends, young men like Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah, who had also retained their faith under severe trial. Together they faced an uncertain future with only their trust in Yahweh to keep them alive. It proved enough.

From Jerusalem he was initially taken to an area around the River Chebar, a canal around 80km from Babylon, running between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers. There he remained for five years until God almost literally tapped him on the shoulder. He had chosen, very carefully, the man who would carry a special title, and at 30 years of age his ministry commenced.

(To be continued)